When salsa singer Albita Rodriguez defected to the U.S. from Havana in 1993, much of the attention lavished on her in Miami was prompted by her unconventional appearance: she sported tailored, double-breasted suits and short, slicked-back hair. Popular Latina artists such as Celia Cruz and Celina Gonzalez have never fucked with gender, not even as moderately as Albita. Now, on the cover of her second U.S. album, Dicen Que... (Crescent Moon/Epic), she plays the vamp, dressed in a provocative bustier and posing with a martini. But though her image may change, the record proves that her musical identity is solid. Her voice is deep and throaty, yet she impressively manages the more difficult melodic tricks. She turns her passionate crooning on a largely original repertoire--another thing that separates her from many female peers--that for the most part adheres rather strictly to Cuba's traditional son form. A few of her sultry ballads incorporate some modern flourishes, like fluffy layers of synthesizer, but the piquant sound of the tres--a guitar with three sets of doubled strings--is a more prominent element of her sound. While Albita lacks the stature of Los Van Van, who played Chicago a few weeks back, or Cruz, who's coming in a few weeks, this performance shouldn't be brushed off. Monday, 10 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-527-2583. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Naomi Kaltman.